The accomplishment of landing a collegiate basketball scholarship started with a ball, a dream and a father, who doubled as his daughter’s coach and wanted the very best for her.
Nique Pacheco started dribbling a basketball at 6 years old and got pretty good at it. She joined her dad’s Hoop Dreams club team, and the potential for the girl who never grew taller than 5 feet 2 began to take shape.
The recent Kamehameha graduate played in countless clinics and summer tournaments, one last summer catching the eye of Edmonds Community College coach Nick Amrine in Las Vegas.
He liked what he saw of her ball-handling, court vision and defensive grit, and Nique liked the chemistry the second-year coach built for the Tritons, who went 10-12 in 2019, their first double-digit win total in eight years.
“I know a lot of Hawaii girls go there, so it would be an easy transition for me,” Nique said. “I played in a Las Vegas showcase last summer and after the first game he talked to me. He told me he wanted a point guard, and I see the court very well and lift up my other teammates.”
Nique was named the BIIF Division II player of the year after leading the Warriors to the league title and a fourth-place finish at the HHSAA championships.
She’ll major in nursing at Edmonds, reporting to the school just north of Seattle in late August or the first week of September, pending the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic.
Her daily routine consists of an early morning workout, a Zoom call with the Tritons to discuss basketball business, and usually another Zoom to familiarize herself with her teammates and build a virtual team chemistry.
“After a meeting with the coach, I’ll make another Zoom call and talk to my teammates to get to know each other,” she said. “The coach told us none of the starters are coming back, so you have to work for it if you want to start.”
Her dad, Dominic, is glad the Triton play a similar style as his warriors. Nique can do what she does best: handle the ball, create a scoring opportunity on offense and feed the post. Defensively, she’s able to keep a ball-handler in front of her, deny dribble-penetration and pick up steals.
“I met the coach in Vegas and their style is similar to what we do, up and down fast-paced tempo,” Dominic said. “He was more impressed that she can take care of the ball and provide leadership. She sees the floor very well and fits in perfectly.
“Her signing, I’m proud of all the hard work we put in since she was 6 year old. It’s a reward to finally see all that hard work put in. It’s something satisfying to coach her the past two years (at Kamehameha).”
When youngsters start dribbling a ball early, the easiest presumption is that the kid should start in high school and then get a scholarship. But it’s never that easy.
“It’s hard work. It’s a process of working hard,” Dominic said. “That’s why we coach kids and take them to Las Vegas. College coaches don’t come here. We want to get them on the map and have coaches look at them.
“That’s our goal, to get kids on the map. Coach Bobbie Awa takes her program (Kona Stingrays) to the East Coast. We still take ours to California and Las Vegas. We can’t travel this year, but in the following year we’ll take kids again for sure in our program, Hoop Dreams.”
Dominic prepared himself and his daughter well. She played with the Stingrays and Oahu travel teams in the past. He knew his time with Nique was coming to end.
“It’ll be new to her to hear a different voice,” Dominic said. “All she heard was my voice or coach Randy Apele’s. Now, she’ll be hearing another voice for a long time. All I’ll do is just watch. All the hard work she put in will help, and she’ll learn a lot more. It’ll be some kind of weird.”
That some kind of weird is the best part when a dad/coach lets go and watches a lifetime spent turn into a dream come true.